The First Rule Of Home Repair Is "Don't Touch It!"

We liked the plumber who was recommended to us as much as we liked the electrician who was recommended to us.

When he came out to look at the basement and check out what we needed to do to get the washer/dryer connection installed, he said that it was of course no problem. The way he said this, telegraphed a slight disappointment — at least that's what it seemed like, like he wanted to do more. Like when LeBron dunked on the basketball camper:

You know, like this is holding me back.

Maybe plumbers need to convey a certain confidence: I can dig out whole trenches in twenty minutes, lay eight-inch service lines out to the sewer for an entire street, weld together four floors of main in less time than it takes for you to shop at Trader Joe's — of course this is no problem.

We were also looking to change our hot water system. The oil furnace supplied the water for the radiators and the domestic supply. Home fuel oil is close to $4 a gallon. Plus, it felt like the boiler ran out of water when we'd take showers. We needed to do something.

We checked on an indirect-fired hot water system, but it still meant that we'd be paying money to heat up the water in the summer, so that seemed less efficient. The plumber encouraged us to think about a gas hot water heater, which was a lot cheaper than an indirect-fired system.

"If this were my house," he said — he likes to use this construct — "I'd have all gas." It was too expensive to get a new boiler but we did decide to get a gas hot water heater installed.

So the plumber took a look at the rest of the house and noted that we had copper pipes connected to the main — not lead), which was good. He pointed at the long ball valve handle and showed me where the water main shut off was. He also pointed at two regular gate valve handles and said never to touch those.

"See those?"

"Yup, yup," I said.

"Never touch those."

"Nope, nope," I nodded, "OK."

I understood what he was saying, but of course I wanted to know what those handles did.

Everything got done, the washer and dryer were installed (and worked) and getting a gas water heater was the best choice we could have made; the gas has only been running about $20 a month more, and this way we don't depend on a man to come and deliver oil for our hot water.

But I didn't learn my lesson with not touching stuff.

So in the bathroom there are two shut-off valves on the wall past the toilet, which I assume control the sink and shower, even though the sink has its own shut-off valves. I was curious about what they controlled, so I twisted them off, at which point the one on the left started leaking, then wouldn't stop leaking.

"Fuck me," I said, to no one in particular.

I ran down to the basement to the water main shut off and cut the water to the house. Then I chipped away at the tile and tried to see if I could change the leaky shut-off valve. It was stuck.

"Fuck me."

I went to the hardware store to figure out what to do. I told the man behind the counter what I did.

"It wasn't broken?" he said, shaking his head. "So why did you touch it?"

I know, I know: Don't touch it!

He sold me some Liquid Wrench.

I got home and sprayed the Liquid Wrench and started twisting. Nothing was moving. I had visions of summoning the plumber, who would say something along the lines of, "Of course we can fix this, but why did you touch it!?"

Out of frustration I started twisting the handle with the wrench. It moved, buckled and finally broke off:

Kawama, Astoria, Queens

And the most miraculous thing happened: I turned the water back on and, lo and behold, the handle stopped leaking. I looked around.

"Fuck me."

I poked at it; nothing seemed wrong. So I got out some grout and sealed it up.

Lesson learned.

Posted: February 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: The Cult Of Domesticity | Tags: , , , ,

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